The week started with a bang… a publisher meeting, a book acceptance, a tearful hug, a bottle of champagne…long chilled for the day this excitement came, popped and poured and savored. I didn't know that wouldn't be the most exciting thing that happened this week.
Tuesday we were notified our foster care certification was official, that our home was opened to provide care, and less than 24 hours later, our phone was ringing… would we take a 4- and 5-year-old sibling set in an hour? We had said we had no room for boys, what with three already in one bedroom, and could only accept girls for placement, and with my writing and work commitments, only school-aged children fit into our current life.
But when the call came, it was so much clearer than it had been before… we don't fit love into the rest of our life. We just walk in love, first, and let the rest fall all over and around it, soaked up and stained by the color that bleeds from what love does.
With shuffling feet they came, feet but no shoes for them to fill, only the smoky, stained clothing on their bodies, and the funds normally set aside to clothe wards of the state previously squandered by those who came before us. They both wore diapers (and it turned out, they were 2 and 4 in actuality which made three babies under age 4 in our three-bedroom rental, plus our 8 and 12 year old, plus the 15-year-old whose adoption is underway). They came with no clean diapers to change into… no car seats, no clothing, no belongings but the dime-store teddy bears that they had selected at the child services office.
They peeked cautiously around corners, suspiciously tiptoed into their new home with trepidation and I watched my biological kiddos, the ones who didn't really choose this arrangement and told me, before the others arrived, that they weren't excited about it. I prayed, I asked you all for prayer, and we were covered, abundantly.
I know because despite my own bout of insomnia, three preschoolers snooze in mismatched sets of my son's pajamas, divvied up across the crowd until we can make it out shopping for right-sized ones. I know because there were way more laughs than tears today and because my children took the lead on loving them, taking hands and leading prayers, sharing toys and whispering sweetness, breaking my heart wide open with the simple practice of love that they grasp so much easier than I do, loving wide and well even when they didn't want to.
Little J took deep whiffs of the ill-fitting pajamas after his bath and proclaimed, "They smell so good," and I remembered how simple delight could be. Then, kissing his sweaty forehead at bedtime, he asked, since the others called me Mama, if he could call me Mama too and if he could stay forever, and my heart swelled with the ease with which he felt at home here, despite his world being ripped wide open just a few hours ago even while I fought to remember that I was not charged with forever for these children, just for now.
They said Little M wouldn't sleep without her big brother in her bed, that they'd shared a twin mattress their whole lives and I probably shouldn't try to sleep her solo, but we read about Jesus and I stroked silky hair and her eyes drifted away and I knew this tiny girl needed a bed to grow into, a spot in the world that was only hers.
Mr. Smitten had to be away this evening, so I juggled a little more than usual and uttered a holy thank-you for the frozen flautas on hand for dinner in a pinch. There were tears and fibs, spilled milk and popsicle juice in the carpet, messy pants, bumped heads, cranky moments, and for Mama, excruciating back pain that leveled me to bed before the laundry was sorted (and yet, insomnia gets up me again and to my keyboard for the telling).
But there was love… much, much love. The kind that comes raining down like invisible pearls and echoes of the whispered prayers of friends and strangers. The kind that has me choking back tears at not just the disgrace of a world where foster care is needed, but the beauty in it, too.